On Wednesday, anti-gun news outlet MSNBC, along with their partner organizations Giffords and March for Our Lives, hosted nine Democrat candidates for President for what was billed as a “Gun Safety Forum.” Most of the time was spent by candidates and anti-gun activists railing against guns, NRA, and occasionally, President Donald Trump.
As one can imagine, there really wasn’t much new discussed, as candidates continued to try to convince Democrat voters that each is the most anti-gun choice. At times, it seemed like a fight might break out over who had the most outrageous scheme to disarm law-abiding Americans.
Everyone seemed to agree on “universal” background checks, “red flag” laws, and that there is an “epidemic” of gun violence in our country. But as each candidate took the stage for their individual allotted time, most tried to separate themselves from the others.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of the higher polling lower tier candidates, started things off, trying to draw a connection between passing new gun laws and combatting “white nationalism.”
Buttigieg also promoted gun licensing, as well as “red flag” laws and “universal” background checks. Attacking NRA, he made the patently false allegation that our association represents the interests of gun manufacturers, rather than our 5 million dues-paying members.
Mayor Buttigieg also talked about banning semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, making the confusing statement that such things should not be sold “anywhere near an American school or neighborhood.” He seemed to clarify later that he was not talking about limiting where gun stores could operate, but meant he wanted to ban these popular rifles.
While trying to sell the constitutionality of banning some of the most commonly owned firearms in America, he made two bizarre comparisons. First, he said that people can own slingshots, but not nuclear weapons, followed by stating that water balloons are legal, but predator drones are not. It’s hard to imagine a more ridiculous comparison than one between children’s toys and actual weapons of war while discussing the Second Amendment.
His support of banning AR-15s, however, did not, at this time, include support for the type of confiscation scheme that has been promoted by one of the other candidates. More on that later.
Former HUD Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro was next. He promoted increasing the tax on ammunition to further drive up its cost and supported the banning of so-called “assault weapons,” but fell short of calling for their confiscation. Instead, he promoted a voluntary “buy-back” scheme, followed by registering those not turned in and tracking their future transfer, similar to the way fully-automatic firearms are currently regulated. While he did not mention fully incorporating them into the National Firearms Act (NFA) protocols, that seemed to be where he was heading.
Next was New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. He stated support for banning and confiscating semi-automatic firearms, pushed so-called “safe” storage laws, and promoted his scheme to implement a federal licensing program for gun owners. He went so far as to call out all of his opponents that don’t support his position, claiming anyone who does not support licensing “should not be a nominee from our party.” He then went on to pat himself on the back for pushing “the most ambitious” gun plan.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been leading the pack in some polls, then spoke. She promoted the idea of limiting firearm purchases to one-a-month, and also suggesting a 7-day waiting period before a law-abiding citizen could take possession of a lawfully purchased firearm. She also threatened a federal investigation of NRA—a clear attempt to quash our right to free speech, and that of our more than 5 million members.
Following Warren was former Vice President Joe Biden. While Biden had been the favorite in the race, at one point commanding a lead of more than 25-points over his closest rival, his advantage has all but disappeared. Biden again raised his make-believe idea on gun control—mandating guns that can only operate utilizing “biometric markers.” He also pushed a ban on the manufacture of AR-15s and similar rifles, coupled with regulating those that are currently owned under the NFA. This scheme has been promoted by representatives of Giffords, one of the sponsors of the event, so Biden was clearly playing to the audience.
His presentation was marked by the usual rambling, odd tangents, and self-promoting hyperbole to which we’ve grown accustomed. At one point he stopped in the middle of praising those behind March for Our Lives to clumsily transition to talking about the federal restrictions on hunting migratory waterfowl; pointing out that there is a limit of three shells in your shotgun when in the field. That brought him to discussing putting limits on the number of rounds one can have in other firearms. Biden seems to be struggling with determining an arbitrarily acceptable limit on ammunition capacity, so maybe he’s now testing out the idea of using three.
Former Texas Representative Robert Francis O’Rourke, who self-identifies as “Beto,” took the stage after Biden. He specifically called out Mayor Buttigieg for not supporting his gun confiscation idea, all but calling him a coward. He seemed to imply the same about Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (R-N.Y.) and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del) for their questioning the level of support for the disarmament scheme.
O’Rourke also pushed the popular lie among the anti-gun crowd that AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles are “weapons of war.” He even made the outrageously false claim that such firearms are “sold to the militaries of the world.” Of course, this is just an evolution of what gun-ban advocate Josh Sugarmann began promoting in the late ‘80s, when he wrote about so-called “assault weapons”:
“The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”
Of course, millions of law-abiding Americans own semi-automatic rifles, while fully-automatic firearms are strictly regulated under the NFA, and are what is actually “sold to the militaries of the world.”
He also claimed that, when the Second Amendment was ratified, it took “three minutes to reload a musket.” In fact, someone in the 18th century who was familiar with their musket could fire and reload it two- to three-times a minute. While that fact has little to do with the debate over gun control, what O’Rourke ignores is the more relevant fact that those privately owned muskets were no different than the muskets used by those in “the militaries of the world.”
The bottom-tier candidate waited until near the end of his time to break out two of the shticks for which he has become somewhat famous; profanity and high school-level Spanish.
Another bottom-tier candidate, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, was next, although she didn’t really bring anything new to the discussion. She mostly echoed the same, tired gun-control ideas promoted by those who came before her. Perhaps that is why she has been struggling throughout most of her campaign to generate more than 1% support in the polls.
Businessman Andrew Yang, who can’t seem to achieve much more than mid-single digit support in spite of promising to give people “free” money, had some curious ideas. He appeared to support Biden’s “biometric markers” idea, and mentioned expanding on the Booker notion of licensing by promoting a multi-tiered licensing program, although he didn’t offer real details on that while on stage, other than there would be different licenses for different guns.
Yang also mentioned wanting to keep track of people who own multiple firearms, but also offered no details on accomplishing this to the audience.
Two particularly odd ideas stood out. First, in order to counter the impact of organizations like NRA, he suggested giving every American $100.00 of what he referred to as “Democracy Dollars.” People could give this money to lawmakers and candidates to help influence their votes, which sounds a bit like buying votes. While we do not support the notion of buying votes, perhaps Mr. Yang did not consider the fact that NRA has five million members. Does he really want to add more than half-a-billion dollars that could be used to support the campaigns of candidates that support the Second Amendment?
His other odd idea, which may be better described as troubling, was the suggestion that gun manufacturers be fined every time one of their lawful products is used by a criminal. One presumes he is not suggesting the same penalties for the makers of any other lawful products commonly used by criminals. If he did, then he would likely be accused of trying to bankrupt the entire manufacturing industry, rather than just those that manufacture firearms.
One other odd statement he made, but also didn’t go into any real details about, was implying that criminals who use firearms to kill others are somehow victims. This line of thought deserves no additional commentary.
Finally, California Senator Kamala Harris spoke, offering nothing substantively new. She reiterated her desire to use executive action to implement many of her schemes. Perhaps hoping to avoid the ire of O’Rourke, she made clear that she supports his approach to banning and confiscating AR-15s and similar semi-automatic firearms. Some of the candidates who took the stage mentioned their version of supporting the Second Amendment included, at least to some extent, the right of self-defense. Harris, however, spoke only of respecting the Second Amendment as it relates, in her mind, to the tradition of hunting.
Ultimately, this anti-gun rally produced what would be expected of an event run by an anti-gun news outlet and anti-gun organizations. The same gun control ideas that have been promoted ad nauseum by radical extremists for years, or even decades. It was at least slightly interesting to see at what lengths candidates will go to try and out-anti-gun one another, especially considering the controlled environment where there was no chance of facing any sort of push-back. Especially from citizens who still respect the Constitution, individual freedom and our right to keep and bear arms.